A Bend in the River - Symbolism

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The River as a Symbol in “A Bend in the River”

Rivers within a well written novel are a representative of a great variety of things. Within the book “A Bend in the River” by V.S. Naipaul, as the name implies, the river is a very significant symbol throughout the novel that shows representation for many aspects of the plotline, ranging from an ever-changing lifestyle to the vitality of the country in which it resides and the people affected by its welfare. The town by the bend in the river is an isolated village in Africa that had a prosperous economy during the colonial era do to the accessibility of the town through river way transportation. The town had lost a lot during the revolution of the locals and then the economy plummeted, leaving little in its wake for the town to survive with. The revolution took away all of the forms of production from the town but did leave one way in which the town could breathe life back into its economy. That one hope for the town came in the form of an old steam boat left over from the colonial era, that relied entirely on the river, which supplied the town with its goods and produce, “the dugouts full of goods — usually food — to be sold to people on the steamer,” and became the principle provider for vitality for the town and the surrounding areas. An example of this is Zabeth, who provided for her town and religiously used the steamer to spread her goods to her people. As it appears in the book, “When the steamers started up again [from the shutdown after the revolution], Zabeth always used the river.” Using the river was the fastest and most prosperous route, even though it wasn’t the safest. In fact the river posed many safety issues, but was a necessity for the survival of the people, especially if they were to prosper, or at least come as close to it as possible, in the town. This is emphasized with the quote, “Almost every trip the steamer made there was a report of a dugout being overturned somewhere along the...
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